Campaign Crawlers

It’s Head-Stomping Season

Kentucky mayhem highlights campaign's fever pitch.

By 10.27.10

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Lauren Valle wanted to create bad publicity for Rand Paul's Senate campaign by having herself photographed next to the candidate while displaying a sign that mocked him as a tool of corporate interests.

Miss Valle's stunt didn't go off as planned, but the 23-year-old MoveOn.org activist certainly succeeded in her larger goal of creating bad publicity for the Kentucky Republican's campaign. After she shoved her way through a crowd awaiting the candidate's arrival for a debate at a TV studio Monday in Lexington, some of Paul's supporters grabbed Miss Valle, pulled off the blonde wig she was wearing as a disguise and wrestled her to the ground. At least two TV news cameras recorded the most outrageous moment of the melee, when a man wearing a "Rand Paul for U.S. Senate" T-shirt stomped his foot on Miss Valle's shoulder as she lay helpless on the pavement.

The trademark rapidity of news in the Internet Age took it from there. At 11:03 p.m., Atlantic Monthly senior editor Joshua Green posted an article headlined: "MoveOn Supporter Brutally Attacked by Rand Paul Supporter," complete with a YouTube video from a Kentucky TV station. The video clip was, as Green said, "truly awful."

Awful as it was, however, that footage didn't tell the whole story. Yet no one online nowadays waits for the whole story before reaching their conclusions. "Rand Paul Supporter Stomps Head of Female," said one "progressive" blogger. By midnight, a liberal blogger in Kentucky (who also happens to be a state employee) had pronounced the incident the work of GOP "Brownshirts."

Overnight and into the next day, more bits and pieces were added to the story. By early Tuesday afternoon, a Paul supporter named Tim Profitt had been identified as the Lexington stomper. He admitted his involvement, apologized, and was banned from further participation in the Republican's campaign. Rand Paul issued an official statement condemning Profitt's action as "deplorable. And so much for the story, at least insofar as the Republican Senate campaign in Kentucky is officially concerned. Given that Paul seemed to hold a strong lead in the race over Democrat Jack Conway, it is unlikely that Monday's unfortunate incident will prevent the GOP from holding on to the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Bunning. However, the whole story of this incident has not yet been told, and this one seemingly minor event in Kentucky may yet prove far more significant than its influence on the outcome of one of more than 30 Senate races that will be decided Nov. 2.

For the past 18 months, ever since the Department of Homeland Security released an April 2009 report depicting Tea Party activists as the tip of a dangerous iceberg of right-wing extremism, Democrats and their media allies have been trying to depict opponents of President Obama's policy agenda as crypto-fascists. And if conservatives can be permitted to speculate without being accused of succumbing to the Hofstadter "paranoid style," Lauren Valle's actions Monday in Lexington certainly seem… well, peculiar.

Miss Valle appears to be an itinerant all-purpose protester. Two years ago, while a student at Columbia University, she was the youngest of five Americans detained by Chinese officials after unfurling a "Free Tibet" banner at the Beijing Olympics. In May of this year, she was charged with felony trespassing in Louisiana when she and other Greenpeace activists illegally boarded a ship, unfurled a banner, and painted the ship with slogans, a protest evidently timed to coincide with an appearance in the area by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. (Their banner read: "Salazar Ban Arctic Drilling.") Law enforcement officials said the Greenpeace group had been in the area for two weeks and "had been repeatedly warned not to hamper clean up operations and not to trespass." A local news account of that incident noted that none of the Greenpeace activists was from Louisiana -- four were from Washington, D.C., one was from New York, one was from California, and Miss Valle is from Massachusetts.

From Beijing to Louisiana, this Ivy League radical somehow ended up in Kentucky. On MSNBC Tuesday evening, Keith Olbermann told the story of the Lexington incident with the label "Thuggish Behavior," interviewing Miss Valle. She explained that she had been hired two weeks earlier by MoveOn.org to appear in costume as an "executive" of a phony organization called RepubliCorp with the slogan, "We buy democracy, one race at a time." MoveOn, a liberal organization that is non-partisan in name only, issued a "Bird-dogging Guide" instructing activists: "Research your Republican target's schedule" and "Stage your RepubliCorp stunt and attract media attention." In this mission, professional protester Lauren Valle was eminently successful. Olbermann overlooked the irony that, while MoveOn declared that its protests were intended to "expose the unprecedented flood of corporate cash to Republican campaign coffers," Valle was paid to travel to Kentucky for her stunt, while her assailant Tim Profitt was an unpaid local volunteer. Indeed, Profitt had donated $1,900 to the Paul campaign, according to FEC records.

Profitt told the Associated Press that he and one of his friends had talked to police officers at the scene, trying to warn them that Valle "was getting ready to do something," but the police answered, "That's not our job." When the Republican candidate arrived, Profitt and his friends tried to block Valle's path to the candidate because they were "concerned about Rand's safety," Profitt told the AP. Meanwhile, Olbermann's MSNBC colleagues Ed Schultz and Chris Matthews compared Profitt's actions in Lexington to Nazi Germany. Olbermann, Schultz, and Matthews were, of course, paid with "corporate cash" to denounce Paul's volunteer supporters as thugs and Nazis.

Nearly two years after the election of Hope and Change, Republicans now hope they are just six days way from yet more Change. Despite every effort by Democrats and their media friends, analysts are now predicting a GOP "blowout" victory on Election Day. Miss Valle herself perhaps best described the anticipation when she called Monday's incident "an extreme example of the kinds of sentiments that people are feeling in many races across the country" and added: "I think that tension is incredibly high."

No doubt about that, Miss Valle. And apologies in advance if next Tuesday feels like yet another kick in the head for Democrats.

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About the Author

Robert Stacy McCain is co-author (with Lynn Vincent) of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party (Nelson Current). He blogs at The Other McCain.